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Nation’s oldest state-sponsored military college hides evidence it gave cadets coloring books

Some colleges really don’t want the public to know about the kiddie toys they give to adult students.

First it was the University of Michigan Law School that scrubbed its website of a post-election event hosted by its “embedded psychologist” that gave students coloring books and Play-Doh.

Now the Virginia Military Institute, the nation’s first state-sponsored military college, is hiding its own playtime activities for cadets.

The Washington Free Beacon reports that VMI removed references to cadets engaging in “stress reduction activities,” including “coloring book stations,” from its Cadet Peer Educators page following WFB‘s Tuesday report about VMI’s “Stress Busters” program.

The page had previously given a lengthy description of what would happen as CPE merged with “cadet government under the Cadet Equity Association’s (CEA) Training and Education branch,” including assurance that Stress Busters would continue. (WFB has a screenshot of the original.)

It is currently only two paragraphs long, with no description of what happens in Stress Busters.

In a followup report Wednesday, WFB published a new photo of a flyer advertising Stress Busters:

The event for cadets, which occurs twice a year before finals, will include Therapets of Roanoke, the new-age meditation technique known as “mindfulness,” yoga, games, grab-and-go snacks, a coloring station, and a raffle.

VMI students told WFB they were embarrassed by the since-scrubbed program and that it didn’t reflect their experience at the rigorous school.

In a lengthy statement Wednesday in response to “concerns about behavioral health programs,” VMI Superintendent J.H. Binford Peay III blamed the outrage against the school on “recent social media postings” that “inaccurately portrayed” Stress Busters.

He does not acknowledge the original CPE page’s description of “coloring book stations,” instead giving a “far more accurate and realistic description of our efforts,” which includes:

There is a one sheet handout with an intricate design that may be used to color, within discreet, small lines as part of the information packet along with other modalities that are recognized as ways to reduce stress. This technique has been used in programs across the nation and is backed by data as to its effectiveness.

He reacted strongly against the idea that VMI “coddles its cadets or has become soft”:

In fact, the Institute is more difficult academically and physically than my time years ago … and I am proud these young men and women elected this difficult path strewn with challenges far different from many of their high school classmates and contemporaries … and far different than our time.

A school spokesperson told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that it edited out the material that drew scorn from the CPE page because it was attracting “more attention than was necessary.”

The Dec. 14 event will still happen as part of Reading Day, “a study day between the end of classes and the start of exams,” according to the spokesman.

Read the initial and followup WFB reports, Peay’s response and the Times-Dispatch report.

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IMAGE: Shutterstock

About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

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